What Is The Tragedy Of The Commons Essay

The tragedy of the commons is a problem that occurs when individuals exploit a shared resource to the extent that demand overwhelms supply and the resource becomes unavailable to some or all.

Garret Hardin, an evolutionary biologist, wrote "The Tragedy of the Commons," which was published in the journal Science in 1968. Hardin's main concern was overpopulation. He used the example of commonly-used grazing land. According to Hardin, the land could provide adequately as long as the number of herders grazing cattle on it was kept in check, through natural population control mechanisms such as war and disease. 

If the numbers were to increase as a result of those checks being overcome, the land would be no longer sufficient to support the population. Each person sharing the land, acting in self-interest, would continue to tax the resources of the commons, despite the fact that if enough people do so, the land will be damaged and unable to support them. 

The tragedy of the commons has implications for the use of resources and sustainability. Depletion of non-renewable resources is an example of the tragedy of the commons in action.  Non-renewable resources, such as water, are often used as if the supply were limitless. Similarly, the reliance on fossil fuels is not only unsustainable but is demonstrably damaging the environment. 

The Internet is sometimes referred to as a commons, a shared resource subject to the same pressures of self-interest and exploitation that lead to damage in the physical environment. In either context, the solution to the problem involves management and regulation of resources with the goal of maintaining sustainability. 


See also:digital commons, social entrepreneur

This is a situation in which a few individuals try to reap the greatest benefit from a given situation neglecting the well being of the society. In our society today there are several tragedies of the commons as described by Garrett Hardin. One of the most popular is the ever increasing population and the resources are still the same. The current world population is estimated at seven billion. All these people need resources like air, water and food to eat which are among the most essential needs to any human being. The only problem is even with the increase in population these resources have not changed but have actually been polluted as for the case of the air and water (Ostrom et al 56).

As a result some individuals in government top positions have taken advantage of the positions and neglected the common man. They have set up industries which are emitting harmful gases into the environment making the air to be polluted. As a result of the mining of oil which at times is done at sea, has spilled to the ocean as a result of negligence. Also the common people at times don’t really mind about themselves, especially those involved in the fishing industry, they tend to carry out their fishing activities thought the year thus not giving time for the young fish to grow and in the end they end up being depleted and no fish at all to anyone.

Garrett Hardin did a study of this and he found out that technical solutions to this problems and that the tragedy is inevitable. So he defined a technical solution as one that requires verly little or no change. That is the only solution is privatizing the activities since if left to the commoners, they will not be able to take control (Hardin 32).

Milton Friedman and Elinor Ostrom are some of the scholars who opposed the tragedy of the commons by Garrett Hardin by proving that the common people can be responsible of the resources available, other than privatization. In her case Ostrom has documented how various communities manage common resources, irrigation waters, fisheries equitably and sustainably over the long term.Milton Friedman advocated for unrestricted markets where there is freedom for the common people. These two scholars would offer different solutions to the population problem, instead of trying to fight the increasing population they would embrace it and look for solutions which would even work in future thus saving time which would have been spent to look for further solutions(Hardin 34).

In my opinion, Ellinor Ostom’s approach would work because this makes every person responsible for each and ever action one makes and he or she is responsible of the outcome of their deeds .If the privatization continues, the common people tend to be rebellious to authority and will continually oppose and feel degraded.

Another solution would be giving the people full responsibility but set rules and regulations so that whoever breaks them is punished so as to protect the majority.

In conclusion the tragedy of the commons should be one issue which is discussed in a wider perspective because it affects all the stakeholders involved and eventually we are the people who suffer the consequences.

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